Kabbalah fancy introductory video lessons

In the post below I added a short clip with terrible video quality, now I found the actual mp4 source and will host on the site for simple ease of use.

The original videos can be seen though a flash player right here: http://www.enterthezohar.com/

The first six are available:

Lesson 1
Lesson 2
Lesson 3
Lesson 4
Lesson 5
Lesson 6

Some interesting and fascinating stuff that often resonates with what I studied. The real interesting part is how they underline it’s not a “religion” but a science. Meaning that they don’t ask you to have faith (preconditioned acceptance) in something, or believe in some god, or pray, or follow certain holidays or do this and that during the day. All aspects of religion are excluded and they ask you to test what they say on yourself, see if it’s true or not by yourself, dispute what they say, ask questions, disagree. The core point being that the Kabbalah is a process to “attain an higher level of reality” (like the “awakening” in The Matrix movie, or the Instrumentality project in Evangelion), breaking the layer of the physical world like a shell, and that this can be done in this mortal life, right now.

The “end” is also quite similar to Lost. There’s no promise of afterlife or paradise of the worthy. They think that the soul is just one, and immortal (no distinction between god and us, we’re just fragments of the same god). When you die you reincarnate, but carrying along exactly the level of spiritual clarity you attained in that mortal life, whatever it was able to achieve.

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Wargaming nirvana

So the past few days, instead of reading, I’ve delved once again into wargaming.

A few days ago was released “War in the East” which should be a wargamer dream coming true and probably the best computer simulation ever created. It’s quite expensive but it’s THE wargame. World War II and the signature German-Soviet war. Whose scale is only surpassed by “War in the Pacific”, a game done by the same company and with a long history. Here’s the counter density from the middle of the main campaign.

But while looking for the most “epic” wargame ever created I’ve also found out that there is a series of boardgames called “Operational Combat Series” (OCS) that are fully simulated on PC through an open source program called Vassal, and also reputed to be the best operational system available. This program, on its own, just gives you the map and counters to play, but on the site’s publisher there are free downloads for all the rulebooks manuals and scenarios. Meaning that if you’re crazy enough you have all that is needed to *play* on PC.

As far as boardgames go probably the most insanely epic is the Europa series (especially the well known combo of Fire in the East + Scorched Earth, that together form the whole German-Soviet campaign from 1941 to 45 and that War in the East tries to simulate on PC), that can be assembled together to form something that won’t fit in any room. Though this one isn’t available in Vassal.

There’s instead an OCS module that is quite a monster (along with DAK2, in the same series) and comes with the union of Guderian’s Blitzkrieg II + Case Blue, that in Vassal are available as one module (increase the module cache in Vassal to 1.5 Gb and disable high quality scaling or you won’t be able to load counters at all…). Here’s a snapshot of the full map.

The scale of this monster is twice as much (but at the expense of scope, since this cover just an historical year) as the PC game “War in the East”, and for fun I’ve taken a couple screenshots to compare them on the same scenarios (I wanted to put TOAW’s FitE in too, but I don’t think there’s a way to start at a similar point).

Guderian’s Blitzkrieg II + Case Blue in Vassal
War in the East
Guderian’s Blitzkrieg II + Case Blue – Real image (see the northernmost section)

Founding blocks

On a tangent, this Scott Bakker discussion is awesome.

There’s literally no escaping the conviction that we, and we alone, have somehow found our way past all the tomfoolery that so obviously afflicts everyone else on the planet.

The self that continually murders fact and memory in the name of convenience and hypocrisy.

the flattering—and false—self-portrait our brains manufacture for us

the vast bulk of the stories we tell are bent on strategic distortion

They tell us whom to lionize and, of course, whom to condemn.

Few things are quite so slippery as the “moral of the story.”

“Freedom” is just another name for bad memory.

When confronted by competing claims, one flattering, the other ugly, all things being equal, the ugly claim is likely more true.

It makes it easier to sell toothpaste, to hold the poor responsible for their poverty, and to congratulate the powerful for their conviction.

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Tetsuo: The Bullet Man – A collection of screenshots (part 1)

I wanted to post some beautiful screenshots from the movie, but I started and couldn’t stop or trim. This is just too fucking gorgeous. Tsukamoto excels with portraits and I don’t know any other movie director who can deliver so beautiful images. It’s addictive visual poetry. Better than truth. He can empower every image with symbolic value and the movie is so minutely perfect that it could be only appreciated in stop-motion. It embodies everything cinema is. And is a powerful reimagining of Dr. Jekill & Mr. Hyde in the most meaningful way.

This is only the first part. The best stuff/mutations appear near the end.

Click picture to see the rest.

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Tetsuo 3: The Bullet Man

Just watched this on TV (in Italy).

The last of Shinya Tsukamoto movies, and also third in the Tetsuo trilogy:

Tetsuo: The Iron Man
Tetsuo II: The Body Hammer
Tetsuo: The Bullet Man

The first, in black & white, is still the very best. A cult movie and absolute masterpiece where every frame is pure visual and symbolic perfection. The swapping pics of the header of this site are frames from that movie.

That first movie was also done in low budget more than 20 years ago. The new one was done in 2009 and is still strong in symbolic value (closer to a remake than a new story), even if the streamlining of the plot wasn’t necessary and weakens the message and value. The music at the end is done by Trent Reznor, even if he can’t surpass his master, Chu Ishikawa.

I’ll try to add pictures later.

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Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne

Not a quote from Erikson, Bakker or Glen Cook. It’s again Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne.

HIKAWA:

…A well-known poet once said, ‘April is the cruelest month.’ Why? Because
it is then that one must wake up from a long sleep and face the barren
world. Looking back on the past, it is evident that the history of mankind
is comprised of meaningless events. The worthless overgrowth of a
civilization blind to its sins, continuous bloodshed and war, and thousands
of years of repeating the same mistakes again and again…The world must
start over from the beginning. The way to salvation was foretold in the
Scripture of Miroku, and today is the day that the prophecy shall be
fulfilled. The old world will sink like a setting sun, and the new world
will arise in its place.

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Quick (comics) update

After Disciple of the Dog I gave reading priority to The Way of Kings so that I can vary the tone before I continue with Bakker’s first fantasy book. It will take a while even if Sanderson’s book reads quickly.

In the last couple of days I’m also reading some comics. I was a dedicated comics reader when Claremont was hot on the X-Men (so almost 20 years ago, heh, the cover here is one of the first issues I read) and I used to read pretty much everything, also because in Italy comics are published in bundles of 3 or 5 in one issue, so it’s easier to cover everything. Then I stopped for a number of years and came back when Marvel decided to go back to fancy crossovers, with Avengers Disassembled. That was in 2004.

I still think that since Avenger Disassembled Marvel produced the very best stuff ever. Fuck the golden age. There is one grand plot that waved together all stories and all series for years. It’s simply awesome but you can only appreciate this if you really read everything published and get the Big Picture. Lots of the consequences and story directions also seem a reaction to the reign of Grant Morrison on the mutant series that lasted about three years. Morrison is one of my favorite writers in comics but I also like a lot everything that happens afterward even if it tries to take apart and reset all that Morrison did before. These big cycles of construction and then dismantling are what defines the Marvel universe at the core.

With Avengers Disassembled all Marvel series started to converge. That first crossover was actually just a big test in order to oil the cogs and practice. Lots of growing pains, stories that made no sense, but it got things definitely moving. It was basically about the story of Scarlet going nut and risking to take apart everything. It ended with Magneto coming from the sky and taking Scarlet away with him. It was all just in preparation for House of M, a proper crossover that started the year after. In the meanwhile a lot of preparatory work continued, including Claremont writing a rather bad series but that at least was doing a lot of laundry work and start to put all the pieces together. That’s the destiny of Claremont in (relatively) recent years. He passes a year carefully building, then a crossover comes and sweeps away everything he had done, and then he starts meticulously rebuilding again from scratch. While guys such as Bendis or Millar write great one-shot stories and cycles, with lots of immediate punch and fun value (and little care about who comes after and has to put things back together, they just blow up stuff in spectacular ways), Claremont instead builds things slowly and long term. Sadly it seems the market doesn’t allow that anymore.

Anyway, big sweeping plot that builds up to House of M, a well written crossover that has a great ending since it brings consequences for the whole Marvel universe. It doesn’t just end, but props up nicely all things to come. The mutant series get a number of separate storylines and miniseries that are well coordinated in a big story and written really well. The more all this goes on, the more all series start to work better in the unitarian context and Big Sweeping Story. Which all leads to Civil War, probably the best handled and biggest crossover Marvel ever realized considering all its consequences and deep impact on all series. That’s more or less where I stopped reading even if it was the highest point.

One huge story that goes from 2004 to 2007. After Civil War there was the Hulk Crossover and then Bendis continues his own reign. I lost track of things so I don’t know where are things now, but I got the impression that even this cycle passed and we’re back giving each writer autonomy and detach single series from big sweeping events that require everyone to adapt.

These days instead I’m catching up from the mutant side. I wanted to read just the latest mutant crossover, but then I discover that it’s the final part of a trilogy of crossovers: Massiah Complex, Messiah War, Second Coming. So I go to the first but I discover that it has a prelude crossover: Endangered species. So I go to this one and it makes no sense because it continues some previous story about the Summers (which was connected to the bigger consequence of Scarlet’s actions at the end of House of M). So I look up that story as well and I find out I’m exactly in the place where I left. And there’s Claremont (Uncanny X-Men #466). It’s January 2006, so events that start with Avengers Disassembled in 2004 and end up in Summer 2010. Quite a nice story arc :)

Comics definitely need renovation, but I don’t think it’s in the renewals and resets. Marvel stayed actual because it tacked mature themes and made super hero comics approach things more realistically. It acquired a lot of depth. A product of modernity: they continued to say things that are actual today. Even social commentary. I think all writers did a wonderful work these years. I miss the meticulous builders like Claremont, but in the end even Bendis built on his own the premises of all he realized today (starting with Alias and Devil, that was between 2001 and 2004, so you can see how things went on for a whole decade). And all this also had very positive impact because even DC got better even if it stays more faithful to the trope of the super-hero and super stories more shielded from modernity and reality.

20 years later and I still enjoy reading comics when I have the opportunity.

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DIGITAL DEKALOGO

I fished this from my room. I think it’s worth diffusing. Great manifesto.

DIGITAL DEKALOGO – A Manifesto for a Filmless Philippines

Film is dead. It is dead as long as the economy is dead, when public taste and creativity are dead, when the imagination of multi-national movie companies is dead. At millions of pesos per film production, there are not going to be a lot of happy days for the genuine filmmaker, the true artist who wants to make movies, not brainless displays of breasts and gunfire. But technology has freed us. Digital film, with its qualities of mobility, flexibility, intimacy, and accessibility, is the apt medium for a Third World Country like the Philippines. Ironically, the digital revolution has reduced the emphasis on technology and has reasserted the centrality of the filmmaker, the importance of the human condition over visual junk food. Film is dead. Please omit flowers.

I – Economics: A minute of celluloid film including processing costs around P1500. A minute of digital film costs around P3. Do the math. A galaxy of difference.
II – The only way to make a film is to shoot it. Shoot when you can. Do not delay. If you can finish everything in a day, why not? Sloth is the enemy of the Muse. The shadow filmmaker has now run out of excuses.
III – Your digital camera will not turn you into an instant Von Trier, Figgis, or Soderbergh. Your attitude towards filmmaking should be that of an amateur: half-serious, playful, light, not heavy, thus without baggage. There are no mistakes. The important thing is that you learn.
IV – Utilize all elements within your resources. If you have a knack for music, score your own soundtrack. If you have writing skills, craft your own screenplay. If you have money, invest in gear. If you have none of the above, make sure you have good friends.
V – Work with a minimized budget, cast, crew, location, and shooting schedule. Artificial lighting is not a necessity. The story is king. Everything else follows.
VI – Work with what you have. Release the bricoleur within. You are not a studio. Accept your present condition. Start here.
VII. – Forget celebrities. Fuck the star system. Work only with those who are willing to work with you, and those who are dedicated to the craft. Avoid pretentious hangers-on with hidden agendas. Use a lie detector if needed.
VIII – Work with humble, patient, passionate, and courageously creative people. Ignore people who are the opposite.
IX – If you are alone, do not worry. Digital technology has reduced the crew to an option, rather than a must. Making a film by yourself is now possible. The past is dead. Those who do not change will die.
X – Create first, criticize later. Take care of the quantity. God will take care of the quality – that is, assuming you do believe in God. A filmmaker makes films, period.

In the name of the revolution,
Khavn

If you will ever have the opportunity to watch a Khavn movie be thankful and do it. A genius.

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Recommended Anime: Arakawa Under the Bridge, Kimi ni Todoke

I’m following Anime and quickly commenting them on Twitter. Anime in Japan are divided in the four seasons, each season corresponding to about 12 (weekly) episodes. Most anime are usually made of 12 or 24 episodes in total. The great thing is there are no “vacations”, so you get stuff to watch along the whole year with no summer or winter or spring breaks. There are about 10-30 brand new series every season. No scarcity of great stuff then.

So in the last year and half I tried at least to watch the very first episode of every new series. It’s fun and I got to sample some absurd stuff across all kind of genres. Anime can be quite versatile.

Making a list of the good stuff takes too much time because I can enjoy the most disparate things for a number of different reasons, so I’ll point just two that maybe aren’t even the best, but that are unique in their own way.

Arakawa Under the Bridge

Nino is just a too wonderful character and I’m in love with everything SHAFT (the animation studio) does. This is filled with quirky, bizzarre humor in a way that only Japanese can achieve. Completely batshit crazy with a wonderful direction and SHAFT-typical outrageous experimental stuff. Everything is excellent here, art, voices and songs.

Get it here: http://mudabone-subs.blogspot.com/search/label/Arakawa
(and make sure to switch to Nutbladder subs)

Kimi ni Todoke

This is instead school romance. But done in a way that makes it excellent and not trite. If you still have an heart somewhere you should watch this. It is also somewhat subversive in the way very typical situations are developed. It is made of win. Excellently done. Great characters. Also unbelievably immune to drama.

A batch is here (24 episodes total, for now): http://eclipse.speedsubs.org/projects/todoke

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